The 7th annual Bhakti Festival will be coming up this weekend on September 9-14 at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center in Southern California. A weekend filled with live Sacred Music, Yoga, Workshops, Healthy Food Choices all in a Sober Environment, out in the beautiful mystical desert, for those on the path of spiritual enlightenment and earthly empowerment, all while the festival raises money to donate it’s proceeds to Non-Profit Organizations (501c). In this blogpost, I interview the talented and handsome musician, Masood Ali Khan who will be performing at Bhakti Fest.
The word “Bhakti” in Sanskrit means “Devotion” which is one of 6 branches of Yoga, meaning “Unity”. Bhakti Yoga differs in the most popular Yoga known in the US, “Hatha Yoga”, more of a physical asana. Bhakti with the root word ‘devotion’ focuses more on music through ancient, magical instruments played by Kirtan Musicians, along with the ‘unity’ of Yoga through Breath linked to Movement to Meditation.
Throughout the 5-day festival, known as “The Spiritual Woodstock of the New Millennium” are an astounding line-up of World-Renown Kirtan Musicians on two stages, Master Yoga Instructors and Spiritual Teachers. Just to name a few, Masood Ali Khan, Trevor Hall, Krishna Das, reggae and ska by Jai Uttal, and Donna DeLory will be there in performance bringing a wide variety of blues, rock, pop, gospel, traditional and hip-hop music by MC Yogi.
Along with these amazing musicians are some of the best Yoga, Dance & Meditation Teachers that will lead up to 12 hours of daily Yoga Classes a day to choose from, with Yogi Cameron, Kia Miller, Hemalayaa, Saul David Raye, just to name a few, along with thousands of Kindred Spirits (of all Yoga levels) together for a similar purpose, to unite our positive energy for a better world.
Besides Bhakti’s specialty of Devotional Yoga & Music, meditation classes will be offered along with Dance, 60 Conscious Workshops, Talks by Enlightened Gurus, Ayurvedic Doctors and Authors/Inspirational leaders such as Ram Dass. There will also be a healing sanctuary with massage, bodywork, energy work and other wellness enhancing options.
Altogether, Bhakti Fest will be a relaxing getaway for clean-eating in an alcohol-free environment with option to camp, hike and even shop in the variety of eco-friendly vendors selling clothes, devotional art, jewelry and more.
Attendees describe the festival as “being immersed in the greatest conscious party you have ever experienced, filled with music, yoga, dancing, love, light, and heart centered community.” Tickets for Bhakti Fest West 2015 are available at west.bhaktifest.com.
As this will be my first time attending Bhakti Fest, I have sat down with my new friend Masood Ali Khan, an International Musician of Kirtan Music & Yoga, a model, a devoted father, and a fellow Traveler & resident of Los Angeles, on why he’s dedicated his life down this path of Bhakti Yoga.
What is your Musical Specialty?
MAK: I’m a Percussionist, focused on “Hang Drum” from switzerland, which is a drum that’s inside out, like a Caribbean still drum. I use them in Yoga classes, to compose Music & sing with it in Mantra, Prayer, and Kirtan with a hypnotic vibe; perfect for a relaxing class that’s not too distracting while still supporting & uplifting.
How did you learn this Musical Instrument and Yoga?
Took me 10 years ago, learning through my peers, other musicians, yoga classes, learning as much as I could, singing songs that had a connection to me.. making that my own truth, nice journey to self discovery. I started by playing drums and percussion in Ibiza & Thailand, in clubs, and in raves in Amsterdam and Ibiza, as well as Conga & Bongos, which lead to currently the Hang Drum. Then I moved to America and was super excited that there was a growing feel for Live music in Classes, a network of incredible musicians perform for classes, which had already been happening throughout Europe. We just Jam & do Kirtan. I’ve seen an incredible development of live yoga classes last 7 years.
Where did you grow up & your Ethnicity?
Grew up in North London. My parents are Indian Muslim from Delhi, but I didn’t grow up around all this Kirtan, there was no musical celebration in the Muslim way, except a little bit of the ‘Sufi’ part of Islam which my family wasn’t connected to, but my parents were open to allowing me to learn this. My parents believe in God, Self Discovery, that human beings are good.
Why do you love Kirtan & the Bhakti Lifestyle?
Kirtan & Yoga has let me explore deeper into my own roots, ignited a passion to join, to listen to Sufi music. There will be some Sufi music playing at Bhakti Fest, one of the best Sufi bands in California, expanding around the World. Along with Kirtan, it’s music from my Indian roots from my parents and ancestral side, all coming through me. Although it may not be directly through my parent’s religion, as their religion does not sing names of Hindu gods when they are muslim. But I love the experience that I get with people around me, feeling I get through mantra and music, ecstatic blissful music; the same experience as back in clubland with DJ’s, joy and ecstasy, but instead now in a more focused conscious spiritual way that is a ‘communal way’, instead of druggie party.
Bhakti & Kirtan has a benefit of helping humanity. I got into music in a way that I can help through Charity work, like being a Doctor but instead holistic work, these are all things interesting to me. But this has to do with music which is more fun, incorporating it with acupuncture, teaching meditation, energy for healing, into music. While performing, we all connect through meditation through breath, and try to transmit through energy flow to the people who are listening, people can be in the bubble of life that we end of creating. Beauty in the musician through this music scene while they can help humanity, an overall benefit for society.
What is your role in the Yoga Community and in Life?
People go into Yoga for personal reasons. When playing music, I’m there to be of service, to support their journey through their class. I tend to play music so it’s not too distracting where you can still focus on your breath. I make my music more inticing, not too boring so biggest groove. Mind & Body connected to Soul, whatever healing they require, my main intention is to help humanity any way I can. And it helps me too.
What does the Bhakti & Kirtan movement mean to you?
Bhakti is under the umbrella of Yoga “Devotional Side of Yoga”, not physical asana part of Yoga. Kirtan includes singing of Hindu names, mantras, invocations, rituals, doing pujas, devotions to a God or Goddess, source outside of themselves to find connection within themselves.
You may have seen the Hare Krishnas singing on the street, sharing mantra to the world. Despite whatever’s going on in the world, they can still sing the name of God and still be devoted and not ashamed to show it, while helping to ignite the beautiful feeling of humanity and joy, brotherhood, those who feel it and heels. Bhakti fest is a congregation of people who also like to sing the name of God and other people that like yoga and love the music.
If you have lived in an Ashram or practice with a teacher, then you would know a lot of prayers, you would know the music.
How is Joshua Tree?
Love Joshua Tree, it’s around an alley of desert land, stars, festival site, people camping around edge, yoga music, and at night, you can walk around the starry nights to tents. It’s a beautiful escape, you feel completely detached from anything you normally experience. To be around Yoga and Music, around conscious likeminded people all there for an uplifting time, without alcohol or drugs, rowdiness, everyone at a good wholesome festival.
There’s also a Kids camp, great place to relax, or do internal work through Yoga with amazing teachers that go there. You feel yourself peeling layers of stress, layers of heaviness that has weighed people down some time through yoga singing, heat, sun, chanting. It strips in all ways, down to this spiritual emotional release; while you feel this joy, you can get choked up sometimes, what they called “spiritual emotion” – a beautiful release. As life is wonderful, you feel a gratitude for life that takes you back. You don’t know when it’ll happen but suddenly you see someone have this emotional release, jumping up and down with joy or the teacher will remark something and it’ll be an hour of love shot into your heart.
‘Oh my God.. suddenly you’re in this beautiful release of tear and joy and thanks for your life and being a part of the humanity of this planet, and life changes.”
Where can we find your Music in general & this Weekend?
Saturday 12pm Hanuman stage, the Hanging “bahv”. There will be so much music on stage but also Yoga classes, configuration of different musicians playing for Yoga teachers that start jamming together. You can find my Music on my website.
For yoga classes, during Savasana, I have some music that are sang as lullaby from women, indian flutes, mantras, prayers. It’s a soft, collaboration album, with Yogi Cameron who’s also a yoga teacher, a long time friend who I use to model with. He became this fully fledged yoga teacher/guru, and we had a collaboration album release on his 2nd book which teaches people how to recite mantras, also we composed different mantra music “Mantra Guru”, an eclectic album of classical indian music and reggae.
Why should people come to Bhakti Fest?
Travel experience, get out of the city, journey into a spiritual realm in California, in desert, worldly, yogi musicians, quite an experience, nothing like it.. anywhere else in the World. There’s more growing festivals incorporating yoga, but this one is very special – one of the first.
What does your day-to-day look like as a Kirtan Musician?
Full Circle Music, Festivals, special events in LA, promote album, the usual studios – Exhale, Bhakti, Yoga works. After Bhakti Fest, I will be traveling through the Northeast, to New York/ Catskill / Buffalo, Roronto, Syracuse, Syratoga mountains, Turkey, Capadocia, lightening in a bottle.
Visit MasoodAliKhan.com for more of his Kirtan & Yoga soothing Music.
Buy your tickets for Bhakti fest at Bhaktifest.com.